Ten minutes later, Sheriff Merrow walked through her door. He wasn’t in uniform, but that made no difference to Willa. His attention went straight to her. “Willa, you all right?”
She was at the kitchen table, a glass of water in front of her. She lifted her chin, aware that she was trembling, but it wasn’t from fear. “Mad is all.”
The sheriff nodded. “I get that. Break-ins are a violation of your privacy and personal safety.”
Nick came back into the apartment through the shop door. He’d rolled his sleeves up, which somehow made him look more serious, not less. “That entrance is still locked, so I don’t think—Sheriff.”
“Hardwin.” The sheriff gave him a nod. “You just check the shop?”
“Yes. No sign that door’s been tampered with, but the lock on the outside door was ripped clean off.”
Sheriff Merrow glanced back at the door he’d just come through. “I noticed that. You found the bedroom disturbed?”
“Yes. We were looking for Willa’s cat. Seems the perpetrator shut him in the bedroom closet.”
“All right. I’ll have a look around.” Sheriff Merrow glanced at Willa. “You don’t mind if I…” He gestured toward the bedroom.
“Nope. That’s what you’re here for.”
With a nod, the sheriff went off to inspect the room.
Nick came and sat with her at the kitchen table. “Nothing’s going to happen to you.”
“I know. I’m not really that afraid of this guy. More…annoyed that he won’t leave me alone. And really ticked he was in my space. He had no right to be in here.”
Nick reached over and put his hand on top of hers.
She smiled at him. “Crappy ending to an otherwise great night.”
“Next time will be better.”
She stared at her water. “Good. On both counts.”
The sheriff came back out. “Willa, I know it’s late, but you can’t stay here tonight. I need to get my people in here and do a full report. Pull prints if we can. And you shouldn’t stay here until you get the front door fixed.”
“Fourth of July is two days away. The town is booked for the Red, White and Boo Festival,” she said. “Getting a hotel room is not going to be easy.” Or cheap.
Sheriff Merrow nodded. “Maybe you could call Pandora.”
“I would, but she’s in Atlanta at some real estate conference. She won’t be back until tomorrow morning.”
Nick squeezed her hand. “Don’t worry about it. You can stay with me for as long as it takes.”
“That’s sweet, but—”
“I can vouch for Nick. I’d let Bridget stay with him. If I thought Bridget wouldn’t take advantage of him.”
Willa snorted. The sheriff’s sister did have a bit of a rep in town for being a heartbreaker. “It’s not that, it’s just…what about Jasper?”
Nick shrugged. “Bring him.”
He nodded. “Absolutely.”
“Thank you.” She hadn’t expected that. Most men weren’t really into cats, but Nick’s willingness to take them both in had just earned him major props. She could see herself falling hard for him.
And now she was about to be alone with him, in his house. For an undetermined number of days.
Sheriff Merrow hooked his thumbs in his belt loops. “Get a bag packed, and I’ll secure the place after you leave. I’ll need you both down at the station tomorrow so I can take statements from each of you. Anything you can tell us about who you think this is, Willa, would be great.”
“I’ll give you everything I have on him.” She stood and looked at Nick. “I’ll just be a minute.”
The sheriff blocked her path as she headed for the bedroom. “Don’t touch any surfaces in your bedroom. If you need to open a drawer, use a tissue.”
“No need. I keep a bag packed.”
She almost missed the face Sheriff Merrow made as he moved to let her past. So what if he thought that was strange? He didn’t know her life. Her history. How comforting it was to know she could be gone at a moment’s notice if need be.
She went into the second bedroom, opened the closet and pulled out the two bags she kept packed and updated, one for her, one for Jasper. Hers had clothes, shoes, toiletries and cash. His had a bottle of water, food, treats, toys, a baby blanket and a disposable litter pan.
Hoisting both bags, she adjusted the straps over her shoulders, then grabbed his plastic carrier by the handle and went back to the kitchen. She put the carrier on the table. “I just need to put him in here and we’re ready.”
“That was fast,” Nick said as he stood.
“I like to be prepared.”
“So I see.” He took the two bags from her. “You take care of Jasper and then we’re off to my place.”
“Let’s take the desserts, too. After all this, I could use a little indulgence.”
“Already got them.” Nick held up the bag from Guillermo’s in one hand.
“Awesome. Okay, Jasper. Into the crate.” She crouched to grab her cat, glad Nick couldn’t see her face. His offer to shelter her and Jasper for a few days was more than sweet. It was giving her thoughts about what else might happen while she was there. The kind of thoughts she hadn’t had about anyone in a long time.
Maybe they were the same kind of thoughts any woman would have after a handsome man offered to take her in during a time of crisis. What would have happened to her if she’d been here when Martin had burst in? The sudden appreciation for life was undoubtedly fueling some of those thoughts. Nick’s romance-novel-hero good looks and chivalry weren’t hurting either.